'Would Jesus go to Church Today?' Asks Abbey Founder Dan Kimball

The founder of the Santa Cruz nightspot the Abbey, has written a book that humanizes and modernizes Christianity for a new generation.

Dan Kimball doesn't look like the kind of guy you'd expect to be talking about Jesus, or for that matter, founding a church.

A punk rock and rockabilly musician with white stand-at-attention hair and the lithe body of a professional drummer, he looks more like Billy Idol's brother than a minister.

Maybe that's why he's beloved in Santa Cruz. He is this iconoclastic city's renegade vision of a religious fanatic. And I use the word fanatic in its most positive sense, a fan, or lover of something with devoted passion.

The passion has caught on with a new generation: More than a third of the members of his church, Vintage Faith, are college students. He gives talks you'd never hear from Billy Graham. A recent one was subtitled: "A look at the very disturbing and weird passages in the Bible and why I still believe it is inspired by God."

He's written five other books that try to bring religious traditions into modern times.

"I love the church, despite the mess" he writes in his new book Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion, an easy-to-read work that shows how he found his love for religion in unconventional ways.

In another of many breaks with convention, he'll be giving the book away Sunday at at 350 Mission St. and at the .

The book's endorsers are enough to lure any music fans: they include Jimmy Eat World drummer Zach Lind, Johnny Cash's drummer "Fluke" Holland, Roy Orbison drummer Jimmy VanEaton and singer Wanda Jackson, who recently collaborated with White Stripe Jack White.

Santa Cruz musicians already know Kimball, 51, not just for his playing, but because he started, the comfortable coffee, art and music lounge that is ground zero for aspiring folk and pop musicians. Most people who go there don't even know it's affiliated with a church, other than for the fact that it's next door to one.

"That's why we opened this place up," says Kimball in an interview in the shop's outdoor courtyard. "You can see it's not a proselytizing place. It's intentional. Part of it being in this building says that not all Christianity is what you may think."

One of the differences is that The Abbey has a fair trade shop, selling Third World goods at fair prices for the people who made them.

Through his life, Kimball has had different takes on organized religion. He was brought up in New Jersey, in a family that didn't go to church. After high school, he began a spiritual quest, trying to figure out if he was Christian only because he was born into it.

While on tour with bands, he would drop into churches to see if he could find inspiration. He'd even worked on a commune in Israel. At one small congregation in England, with 18 elderly people and an elderly pastor, he had his moment of enlightenment.

The pastor didn't judge him on his hair or his history. He answered questions without condescending and won Dan over to the possibilities and strengths of a congregation.

Eventually, he moved west and chose to settle in Santa Cruz because he liked the atmosphere more than bigger cities. He found a church here with an unusual method.

Opening the phone book, the only church name that he understood was Santa Cruz Bible Church. He didn't know what the names of other denominations meant. So he walked in and began playing drums in the choir and working with the youth ministry and eventually founded Vintage Faith in 2004.

The Abbey spun out of that as a place to break stereotypes, a place that Jesus would have appreciated as part of the current culture and not one of in-your-face proselytizing, filled with, as he notes in his book, "creepy pastors" or "shiny, happy people holding hands."

"I Wouldn't Like Christians if I Weren't One," he calls one chapter and "The Church is Judgemental and Negative," is another.

In his book, he fights against the presumptions that Christians must be dogmatic, unquestioning. He considers questioning the traditions and finding meaningful answers to be a noble pursuit.

He calls himself an evangelical, but not in the sense of the word that has been hijacked by right-wing churches, meaning Republicans who fight against social issues.

"I'm evangelical in the sense of the original meaning. It means spreading the good news."


Brian September 10, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Ian Johnna Utile September 11, 2012 at 06:15 AM
I have know Dan for about 17 years and I'm stoked to be a part of the community he had vision to create at Vintage Faith. I also love his new book "Adventures In Churchland". In this new book Dan is vulnerable, hilarious and passionate.
Brian September 12, 2012 at 02:38 AM
im all for five dollar drinks, I have respect for a five dollar drink, thing is the abbey does not have four dollar drinks sans poor training or 'let alone a four and change'. wifi? Oh big deal, expect that everywhere. Before there was a http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=27771 coffee shop and co. there was a poor attendance http://www.pcusa.org/ with a long history i assume and a presbyterian kitchen , they were very good to the neighborhood. The Abby rejuvenated the church, but its all bought out. literally. break even? whos even? http://www.vintagechurch.org/about/leadership/leep
Brian September 12, 2012 at 04:58 AM
However much truth you may see with the facts, people are people and anyone can rise above and see the light. Putting everyone in one basket is usually how rascism and of course nepotism starts.
Brian September 14, 2012 at 04:22 AM
now the messages have been removed, nothing but the facts is not removing messages whoever the f%^& you are, in refer to this jeffrey helms people,,, real scientific .... dumb as$
Brian September 14, 2012 at 04:23 AM
chritians dont erase messages and run from the facts,
Brian September 14, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Brad Kava (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 07:02 AM
I took down some offensive posts that violated Patch policy. Racially offensive things are not tolerated. Civil discourse sure is appreciated.
Brian September 14, 2012 at 05:57 PM
there wasnt enough imformation to even figure that out, erasing them does not get closer to the truth, it shuts down the possibility of bringing a person to a better waqqy of thinking... censorship is bs
Brad Kava (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Brian: I HATE censorship. But those posts made no sense and were benefiting no one, I thought. Maybe you are right, though. I usually err on the side of total transparency, but it seemed like those posts were doing no one any good and had anti-Semitic overtones. I've hardly ever taken down a post before because I believe in the free flow of information, and now am regretting it, if you thought they were valuable.
Brian September 15, 2012 at 07:17 AM
its same thing over and over, hit replay get the same thing, moving forward: Racism is generally defined as actions, practices, or beliefs that reflect the racial worldview: the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races". This ideology entails the belief that members of a race share a set of characteristic traits, abilities, or qualities, that traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral characteristics are inherited, and that this inheritance means that races can be ranked as innately superior or inferior to others.[1][2][3] In politics, racism is commonly located on the far right due to the far right’s common association with nativism, racism, and xenophobia.[8] In history, racism has been a major part of the political and ideological underpinning of genocides such as the holocaust, but also in colonial contexts such as the rubber booms in South America and the Congo, and in the European conquest of the Americas and colonization of Africa, Asia and Australia. It was also a driving force behind the transatlantic slave trade, and behind states based on racial segregation such as the USA in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and South Africa under apartheid.[9] Practices and ideologies of racism are universally condemned by the United Nations in the Declaration of Human Rights.[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism
jeffry helms September 15, 2012 at 07:27 PM
jesus would have fought against foreign organized drug crime
Brian September 16, 2012 at 01:11 AM
thats probally the first logical message youve written to date ... try not to confuse your x's with your y's .. i .. says the blind man '
Brian September 16, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Brian September 16, 2012 at 03:53 AM
sounds like he might want to live in the light instead 'behind the vale'? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19614521
Brian September 16, 2012 at 05:55 AM
drama on top of drama... you have lots of drama no substance ....
Brian September 16, 2012 at 06:52 AM
well i guess we know what ur all about..
Brian September 16, 2012 at 09:49 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepotism http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trust%20fund%20baby
Brian September 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Brian September 16, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Is this about you and the spirit? other people have there story and there walk with the spirit.. everybody has there own story and trials and tribulations that go with it. If you cant walk with holy spirit, i fail to see how you will help others do so.
Brian September 17, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 07:21 AM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Brian September 17, 2012 at 07:17 PM
get a freaking life jeffry, all you do is spew the same crap over and over, same unfounded accusations about people you dont even know,,, there plenty of angry people everywhere accomplishing nothing except there own missery, part of understanding chritianity is finding happiness not hate... its not about them its about you.;
Brad Kava (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 09:41 PM
I was going to put to a vote whether I should let mr. helms stay on patch, despite his racism, ignorance and bad spelling, but I've made the decision. He's about to be gone. His posts are ruining an otherwise positive story. Sorry for those offended either way. But this guy is obnoxious and violating our tems of service.
Brad Kava (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Jeffry: go to the Sentinel. They love comments like yours
Brian September 17, 2012 at 10:28 PM
problem is kicking people out, or censoring there messages doesnt allow interaction to hopefully lead them on a better path to accepting others. Didnt Jesus say were all flawed. AS far as the std thing, its probally because all the women that give him attention have stds. Dont know what to say about that jeffrey, its a medical problem, and hating people for a virus is not just wrong its racist. Its why condoms were created. People selling hard drugs are criminals, and subject to prison in this country, that hasnt changed. And people that sell drugs and arent drug addicts are TERRORISTS. Yes Santa cruz and the rest of the world has drug problems, and drug addicted women tend to be easier to meet and get lucky for some love and maybe an std. But believe it or not there are a lot of normal people out there that dont do drugs, they go to work and live there lives std or not. Either way humans are humans std or not and deserve respect and kindness. they want to kick you off this site jeffrey for insulting and denigrating people were its uncalled for. Were here to try to seek the truth terrestrial or extra... Not spout false accusations and denigrate people for medical problems.


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